Suicide Prevention and Mental Health: “Trumpism” vs “Republicanism”

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of Darkness Walk in Downtown Dallas in support of suicide prevention and mental health.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of Darkness Walk in Downtown Dallas.

As today’s political climate sustains the growing gap of communication among liberals and conservatives, so does this gap of the parties internally. Currently, progressives are comparable to establishment Democrats as Trump supporters are to establishment Republicans.

But what are the differences? With Congress and the White House being Republican-led, one from afar may assume unity. But this is far from the case. The differences between congressional Republicans and the Trump administration can be seen through the recent measures taken in regards to suicide prevention and mental health.

Heidi Swapp cries while telling Sen. Hatch about her son at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute. PHOTO: Desert News

Last year, the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2017 was sponsored and introduced by Senators Joe Donnelly and Orrin Hatch. While Senator Donnelly is a Democrat, Senator Hatch has clearly presented his orthodox views. Hatch has an extensive history of legislative opposition involving reproductive rights, labor unions, and discrimination protection. Such ideology wouldn’t even recognize the legitimacy of mental health, let alone take favorable action in the form of a bill.

The Senate voted unanimously, Democrats and Republicans alike, in favor of the suicide hotline reform. The House voted on the identical bill which was sponsored and introduced by Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican, with 379 representatives voting yea, 48 not voting, and 1 voting nay. The one nay vote was cast by Representative Justin Amash, a Republican. Amash struggled afterward to further expand on his claim that the bill lacked a “constitutional basis.”

Also last year, the C.H.I.P. Mental Health Parity Act was sponsored and introduced by Representative Joe Kennedy III, a Democrat. The 22 co-sponsors consisting of 17 Democrats and 5 Republicans. The House passed this bill as well. This was conducted by voice vote; meaning it passed, but there is no record of individual votes. The act heads to the Senate.

These bills, in the end, are sent to the Oval Office for final executive approval. The suicide hotline bill received Trump’s signature, and the C.H.I.P. bill most likely will after passing the Senate. But signing-off on a bill does not always imply agreement. One consequence of vetoing a particular bill is that it could draw unwanted negative attention. But in terms of handling suicide prevention and mental health directly, the stigma of going against these causes is not of concern to the Trump administration.

In June of this year, the Trump administration rolled back on protections of the Affordable Care Act that re-allowed small businesses to maneuver around its mandates. The consequences being that the new plans, though cheaper, can exclude many essential health benefits. Therapy, prescriptions, and other psychiatric aid are left to be paid out of pocket. The Trump administration has also presented their 2019 fiscal budget. It states that the Department of Health and Human Services will receive 6.84 billion (7.9 billion less, or a 21% decrease in their funds from last year). Under H.H.S. is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. S.A.M.H.S.A. would lose about 600 million in funds. Though budgets from the executive branch are requests for Congress to create their budget accordingly, it alone says volumes.

Trump speaks at the 75th-anniversary party of the National Federation of Independent Business. PHOTO: POLITICO

So what can we make of this? It is evident that the Trump administration isn’t acting on suicide prevention and mental health for reasons relating to these issues. The administration’s output being an unclear stance with motives unrelated to the topic. At an anniversary celebration of the National Federation of Independent Business, Trump touted to the attendees, “You’re going to save massive amounts of money….” This statement was in reference to the removal of Obamacare mandates done by his administration.

The congressional Republicans, rationale fiscally similar, are different in terms of motive. Their motive is related to suicide prevention and mental health. The bipartisan votes exhibited a more humanitarian stance. No matter where in the conservative spectrum they lie, they took the active choice to take the resources in these bills seriously. These resources were not seen solely as an economic item or a simple number, but their dire place in our current U.S. society. The congressional Republicans have been able to consider these topics by tapping into the innate compassion we all hold. Through what’s normally the liberal lens, they see that these needs provided hold an importance beyond their cost. Their recognition of aiding individual and personal betterment, that accumulates to the greater whole of the nation.

I am a registered Democrat, and consider myself a progressive with a mixed-bag of likewise ideals. As a whole, I don’t believe that political parties are beneficial for the people. They do not stimulate a more in-depth analysis of topics and issues among the people. I registered to a party because I wanted to be able to vote in the primaries in New York state and exercise other political rights that party affiliation, unfortunately, makes easier. I write this article able to perceive the differences of the people within the “side” of the political spectrum not of my own. Of course, this ability is nothing new. What is new in these times is the variable that allows me to distinguish the people among the ideology I am not supportive of. That variable is a sense of empathy. It is clear so far, pertaining to this particular topic, that the congressional Republicans are able to objectively see the non-superficial benefits of these services to the people. With this presidential administration, we are having to go beyond the question of beliefs, stance, and ideology. This nation is questioning an intention. A lack of humanity, with an overt rate and magnitude like never before. As a suicide attempt survivor myself, this is alarming.

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About Max Micallef 2 Articles
Max Micallef, a driven progressive, is a Purchase College student majoring in political science with a minor in sociology. He is involved in multiple areas of politics & advocacy, including voter outreach coordinating & managing and is an annual speaker & fundraiser for a walking event under the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Some of his political interests include incorporating new contemplative and empathetic forms of political counseling, conducting and partaking in interviews, and politics/government beyond our party system (and integrating 3rd parties). Max is the LGBTQ+ Facilitator for the N.Y.P.A.N. chapter Progressive East End Reformers and continues to advocate for gay rights, awareness and education. He is also the published author of the poetry book titled, "Of Love and Mental Health".

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